Sunday, May 27, 2007

What makes some people fascinating?

In my youth, I had aspirations to be in politics. Before I had grasped a full understanding of the qualifications and the responsibilities required, I remember vacillating between wanting to be the first Canadian Pope and President of the United States. As a very young child, I have vivid memories of JFK and his brother Robert. Later in life, I remember being drawn to Trudeau. As nerdy as it sounds, I used to visit Parliament and the Ontario Legislature as a teenager to take in question period. On one occasion, I thought I would just drop in on P.E.T. to introduce myself. I think I caught a glimpse of him from outside his office, but didn't get very far before the RCMP intercepted me. I did meet Joe Clark at a convention, and after chatting him up, I asked him for his autograph - I don't remember him being terribly impressive. At a party one night, some friends and I placed a call to Ed Asner, who chatted with us for quite a while. One evening, while out at a Toronto bar watching Blue Rodeo perform I saw Tom Cruise. Apparently he was in town filming Cocktail, and was also a fan of Blue Rodeo. Again, I approached him and his entourage, only to be intercepted by some burly men who told me that Tom had enough friends, thank you very much. Later that night, I found myself dancing bum to bum with the vertically challenged movie star. That was kind of neat. Recently I've had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with Michael Ignatieff and his wife, a very charming and interesting couple. I really wish he'd won the leadership convention. A former governor general of Canada was a guest at the spa not too long ago, she seemed very nice as well, although somewhat stressed. I remember as a child being fascinated and probably influenced by Mordacai Richler's story of Duddy Kravitz. There are times when I look out over the rolling hills at Ste. Anne's and my imagination is thrown back to the movie where Duddy first surveys the expanse of land that he sets out to buy. So when Noah Richler became a regular visitor at the spa, I was both fascinated and charmed by him as well - he is such an articulate and witty man. I'm looking forward to the launch of his new book club at the spa. We've had a few other celebs at the spa over the years, but for the most part, I try to leave them alone. I expect the last thing they need is for me to be buzzing around them in hopes of acquiring a signed 8X10 for me to hang on my wall of fame! Several years ago the cast of Showboat was here at the spa on a Sunday night resting their voices between shows (the eucalyptus steam room is great for this). A well meaning guest (after a few glasses of wine) approached their table and asked if they would mind singing "Happy Birthday" to her parents. They were not amused.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why do we do what we do?

I don't want you thinking that I spend all of my time at Home Depot, but it just so happened that I had a bit of a moment there last week. I was actually on my way to Princess Automotive in Whitby to find a pump to pump water mixed with Miracle Grow out of a large storage tank that I had purchased for the back of my truck onto my little seedlings hoping that this bit of nourishment would encourage them to grow just a little faster. I know, that was probably a bit of a run on sentence, but please overlook that fact, as using a run on sentence in my blog supports the gist of the point I'm trying to make. As I was making a rather long trip for a very minor purchase, I called my brother and asked if he needed anything at Princess Automotive. He gave me a list, and another friend gave me another list, so my trip ended up being very productive, or so one would think. As I was pushing my brightly coloured orange cart up the electrical aisle, hunting for some obscure fitting, I thought, is this really the best use of my life - shopping at Home Depot. As I was mulling this over, and still searching for that obscure part, I hearkened back to a conversation I'd had with a fellow innkeeper, and newly elected president of an association to which I belong (Ontario's Finest Inns & Spas). My friend Michael was coaching me on how to get results from other people in an association setting. He praised me for my passion, but suggested that sometimes I am misunderstood by others who may not share my passion. I think he was suggesting that I tone things down a bit. At one point, he asked me why I do what I do. Why do I get so passionate about the industry and my desire to see us work together to our mutual benefit, i.e., to make Ontario's Finest Inns & Spas a more successful group by working more cohesively (my words, not his)? I had to stop and think, and ultimately I didn't have an answer. That night, I tossed and turned as I considered Michael's coaching and questions. Perhaps I should just focus on my own business, and if I see something worth participating in, join on it's merits, as opposed to joining to make a contribution or to help it reach it's full potential. By dawn, I had concluded that the best thing for me, for my business, and for the associations to which I belong, would be to resign my board seat, and adopt a "whatever will be will be/live and let live" attitude. My awakening in the electrical aisle of Home Depot reinforced this thought process. Since then, I've been building on this thought process with ideas like; sell everything and move to Paris so that I could learn to speak French (and live in Paris), travel to India to find my guru, do charity work in Africa, move to a warmer climate and just enjoy life, do something meaningful that only involves me, myself and I. And then I got to thinking, why do we do what we do? Why have I allowed email and other forms of technology to take over my life, why do I go to work every day, why am I so caught up in this material world, why can't we live a simple life free of obligations, regulations and feelings, why, why, why!!! Do you you ever have these thoughts? Maybe I should stay out of the electrical aisle for a while.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Due to higher than normal wait times . . .

Here I go again, rant, rant, rant! I'm writing this blog while I'm on hold with the Whirlpool Customer Service Centre. A couple of years ago, I purchased a Maytag Neptune stacking washer/dryer from Home Depot for my home. I picked Maytag because of the name. I thought by paying a little more, I would save myself money in the long run with years of trouble free service. I guess I bought into the image of the idle Maytag repairman; idle because he never got called for service. Well, I was wrong. My washing machine stopped spinning last week, leaving a load of heavy wet clothes for me to wring out by hand. My first approach was to take the cover off the back to see if anything obvious was wrong.
Not finding any obvious problem, I hunted down the manual, where I found an 800 number for service in Canada. I felt a sense of relief, as I was sure I was just minutes away from the helpful hand of the Maytag repair man. I made a note of the model and serial numbers located on the back of the machine, and set off to my office to make the call. After 29 minutes of recordings, and options, one of which had to do with a class action law suit against Maytag (this should have been a tip-off), a very nice person took my call, only to tell me that my model and serial numbers didn't exist in her system. So, I hung up and went back to the machine to find the right model and serial numbers. I called back in again - call volumes still higher than normal, and after another 29 minutes a nice young man took my call. He verified all of my details and then told me that a service company from Belleville would be out to look at my machine within 48 hours. He suggested that I call the company in Belleville just to let them know I was expecting them. I thought this was a good idea. When I called the company in Belleville, they asked where I bought the machine. They didn't seem very happy with my answer, so much so that they went on to tell me that they didn't service my area, regardless of what Whirlpool had told me. So, now I'm on hold again to the so called service centre, listing to an automated attendant tell me how much she appreciates my patience. I could go on, but I'm sure by now most people have lost interest in my little story about how the concept of service and integrity has somehow been lost in our society. I guess the real trick is to survive these assaults on our senses without acting our frustration out on those around us who we love and cherish. Maybe blogging is a good outlet. By the way - did you see what our friends in the oil industry did to the price of gas for the Victoria Day weekend? Happy Birthday Queen! I think I'll book myself in for a massage. (My automated friend just told me for the thirteenth time: "Thank you for your continued patience. Due to higher than normal call volumes, we are currently experiencing longer wait times." She sounds so sincere. You'd think someone in senior management would schedule for these higher than normal call volumes. I wonder how the automated attendant keeps her cool, with management subjecting her to such stress. She must go to the spa when she is not experiencing these frustratingly long wait times.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Glorify your mother

As a blogger, one thing I didn't anticipate was the tendency for readers of my blog to want to coach me on what I should write about. As far as I'm concerned, a blog (derived from the term web-log) is a personal thing. It is one of the many new forms of sharing and communicating that has arisen out of the internet generation. For the past 17 years, my life has revolved around Ste. Anne's. By blog gives me an opportunity to share those thoughts and experiences (my life) that I feel comfortable sharing. If you want this blog to be an extension of the marketing efforts of the spa, you're really much better to click here to go to the Ste. Anne's web site. If you're going to take offense to my thoughts and experiences, post a comment. Otherwise, welcome to my world. Pictured above is one of my favorite pictures of my mom and dad. We were on holidays together somewhere in Europe probably about 4 years ago. I like this picture because for me, it represents the love that bubbles up out of the years of sharing a life together, the good times and the bad times, the trials and tribulations. This morning, my pastor preached about motherhood. Between his many parish duties, our pastor cares for his 90 year old mother, in his home. I think this qualifies him to preach about motherhood. His advise for today, if I can paraphrase, was to glorify our mothers, whether they are still living or not. I think this is good advice. After attending mass with my mother, I set about to bring water to some of the trees that Debbie and Darlene planted last week. I've been hoping for rain, but it didn't come, so I rigged up a contraption on the back of my truck to bring water to the trees that are scattered over 500 acres. The little seedlings look so vulnerable as they hope against all odds to put down strong new roots while being crowded out by long grass and weeds. I found myself developing a strange empathy for these little sprouts; although I'm not sure how much of a difference my 30 seconds of water (and just a taste of Miracle Grow for good measure) will make in their lives. Like the mothers of the world, I suppose all I can do now is hope for the best, or as Debbie says as she digs another one into the ground with her spade, "grow you little bastard, grow!" Love and respect to all the mothers of the world!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Plant a tree for Zoey

Pictured above, young Zoey is helping her grandma Dar with the annual Ste. Anne's tree planting blitz. This year, Ste. Anne's awesome gardeners, Debbie and Darlene, will transplant 4,000 seedlings on Ste. Anne's property. These trees will join thousands of others that have been planted in years gone by. In 40 odd years, when Zoey is around the same age as Debbie and Dar, the global warming crisis will be at it's peak, if we haven't taken the actions recommended by leading scientists. Trees like the one Zoey is planting will play a crucial role in converting C02 into oxygen. You can join Zoey, Debbie, Dar and Ste. Anne's by becoming an environmental hero. It's easy; plant some trees, replace your incandescent light bulbs with florescent light bulbs, adjust your thermostat, open a window and turn off your air conditioning, ride a bike or take public transit, take your own re-usable bags to the grocery store, vacation in Canada, take VIA Rail to Ste. Anne's. If we all pitch in we can leave Zoey a healthy and beautiful planet to enjoy. Alternatively, we could follow the lead of the oil and gas industry and take a gluttonous "gouge now, don't worry about the future" kind of approach. Check out this web site

Monday, May 7, 2007

We're ready for you . . .

This past weekend, with absolutely incredible weather on our side, we set a new record for attendance at the spa, and yet walking through the building and around the grounds, you would hardly know that so many people were enjoying the therapeutic benefits of a weekend at Ste. Anne's. I must say, for the first weekend in May, the conditions were beyond exceptional. I can't remember ever having had the pool open and up to temperature this early, the grass cut, and plants flowering in the gardens, dining on the front patio. I'm really not qualified to say that this is a product of global warming, but whatever it is, I sure am liking it. Al Gore, on the other hand, has made a name for himself recently on the subject of climate change. I would encourage you to take the time to watch his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, playing now on the movie network. Al is very effective at making his point, and certainly gives us lots to think about. When you've worn yourself out trying to come up with your contribution to solving the global climate crisis, come join us for a little unusually warm weather and some R&R. I don't think we've ever had a better team assembled and ready to receive our guests. The spa therapists, the kitchen and dining room staff, the guest services, housekeeping, and gardening staff are all working incredibly well together to make a visit to Ste. Anne's more memorable than ever. I had a massage last week with one of my all time favourite therapists, and what a difference it made to my week. Two weeks ago, Canada AM did a little segment on the increasing popularity of spa vacations as a very efficient method of relaxing. Packing a great big suitcase to be put through the stress of border crossing and getting on a plane to spend a week basking in the sun just isn't making sense any more. So leave your cares behind and take some time for yourself - we're ready for you! Mother's day is coming up - don't forget about mom - bring her to the spa, or buy her a gift certificate - she deserves it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Red Friday

This email arrived in my inbox this morning, from a trusted and respected advisor and long time friend. I thought it was worth sharing:

Last week, while traveling in Canada on business, I noticed a soldier traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two-and-two together. After we boarded our flight, I turned to the soldier, who'd been invited to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading home. No, he responded. Heading out, I asked? No. I'm escorting a soldier home. Going to pick him up? No. He is with me right now. He was killed in the Gulf. I'm taking him home to his family. The realization of what he had been asked to do, hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn't know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier's Family and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days. I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do. Upon landing in Canada the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honor of having Sergeant Steeley of the Canadian Armed Forces join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his Family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sergeant Steeley deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign." Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the Sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be a Canadian. So here's a public Thank You to Our Military Men and Women for what you do so we can live the way we do. Red Fridays: Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing RED every Friday. The reason, Canadians who support our troops used to be called the "silent majority." We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record breaking numbers. We are not organized, boisterous or overbearing. Many Canadians, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of Canada supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday -- and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that ... every Canadian who supports our men and women afar,
will wear something RED. It could be just a small RED ribbon. By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make Canada on every Friday a sea of RED, much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers. If every one of us who loves this country, will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family, it will not be long before Canada is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once "silent" majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on. The first thing a soldier says when asked, "What can we do to make things better for you?" is ... "We need your support and your prayers." Let's get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example, and wear something RED every Friday